Starting early Tuesday, LAX arriving passengers who wanted to grab a cab or schedule a ride-hail trip home needed a new set of airport survival skills.
The airport banned terminal curbside pickups by taxis and ride-hailing companies, rerouting travelers and most commercial drivers to a pickup area east of Terminal 1 known as LAX-it (pronounced L.A.-exit).
The idea is to reduce clogging in an area already crowded with drivers and construction projects. Tuesday morning, the change was immediately obvious around the traffic horseshoe of the terminal area.
By 11 a.m., airport spokeswoman Becca Doten was reporting that traffic was 80% faster on the upper departures level where the taxi and rideshare drivers had been picking up passengers.
But all was not perfect in the new pickup area. Although most arriving passengers had little trouble walking or catching shuttle buses from the terminal to the LAX-it area, by 11 a.m., hundreds of newly arrived travelers were in growing lines, waiting to be matched with arriving Ubers, Lyfts and taxis. By noon, the lines were longer still. Even the taxi queue, shortest of the lot, had more than 50 people waiting.
“It’s not so bad, if you’re not in a rush,” said Heidi Campbell, a professor from College Station, Texas, who had come to town for a conference. “I’ve been all over the world, and this is my least favorite airport. But this,” she said, indicating LAX-it, “doesn’t seem too bad.”
If you’re planning to take a taxi or ride-share from LAX in days or weeks ahead, here’s what you need to know to navigate the change:
•If you’re flying out of LAX, nothing changes in terms of getting to the airport. Drop-offs remain at the same places.
•If you’re flying into Terminals 1, 2, 7 or 8 with only carry-on bags and you’re comfortable walking a few hundred yards, don’t bother with those green LAX-it buses. Instead, follow the abundant sidewalk signage to LAX-it. It will probably take you less than 10 minutes, with one crosswalk from Terminals 1 and 2; two crosswalks for Terminals 7 and 8.
•If you’re flying into Terminals 3, 4, 5 or the Bradley International Terminal, your walk will be closer to 20 minutes (and you may have more luggage) so the shuttle bus may be a better option. If you use a walker or wheelchair, the LAX-it buses will accommodate you.
•If you still want curbside pickup, you can get it (at the outer island curb, arrivals level) by paying more. Many limousine and similar transport services, including Blacklane, 24-7 Ride, Uber Black, Uber Black SUV and Lyft Lux, hold Transportation Charter Party permits allowing those pickups.
•The LAX-it bus system is designed to pick up travelers within three to five minutes, make more no more than two stops and deliver travelers to LAX-it within 15 minutes. In the first several hours of Tuesday, those steps seemed to be working relatively smoothly. (LAX had 26 buses running from its fleet of 31, Doten said. On an ordinary Tuesday morning, fewer buses will circulate. On busy Sunday nights, Doten said, all or nearly all of those buses will be operating.)
•Once you get to the LAX-it area at World Way and Sky Way (next to the Park ‘n’ Fly lot), you’ll see four lanes for cars making pickups. Taxis, ride-hail company Opoli and pool services such as UberPool have Lane 1. Lyft has Lane 2. Uber X has Lanes 3 and 4. For help, look for one of LAX’s lane managers in green vests. Lyft representatives wear pink vests; the Uber representatives, black.
•When travelers use their ride-share apps to summon a driver during busy hours, instead of identifying drivers by their names and license plate numbers, Uber and Lyft will send PIN numbers (four to six digits) to LAX-it travelers. The travelers then line up to be matched with drivers, much as taxi customers are lined up to be matched with cabs. During low-traffic hours between midnight and 8 a.m., the rideshare companies could revert to the name-and-license-plate routine.
•If you need to eat, you have options. For most of the day, there will be one food truck and one coffee truck. This week, you’ll see Wing Society (three chicken wings for $13, a garden salad for $11) and Coastal Coffees (espresso, $3.50). Under current plans, a coffee truck will be present 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a second shift will run from 3-11 p.m. A food truck is scheduled to be present from 6 a.m.-2 p.m., then 4 p.m. to midnight.